Friday, March 25, 2011

Why We Revolt

I recently read and enjoyed this article on the occurrences of revolutions and why or how they happen: Why We Revolt: Egypt, Wisconsin, and the Wherefore of Revolution by Rebecca Solnit. It provides inspiration and brief background information on how revolutions have begun and how they've succeeded.

It's amazing the sacrifices people have made in order to advance society in a sound direction. Solnit writes of regular, every day people who took matters into their own hands, people such as an unknown rapper, a college student, a U.S. Army private, a young woman in a black veil, and others. Solnit ponders the question of why revolutions occur when they do. How much can people take before they've had enough and decide to push back rather than fall? Why do the actions of one or two ordinary people suddenly inspire and ignite a revolution?

I've certainly thought of those questions in connection to the protests happening here in Wisconsin. Long before Scott Walker took office as governor, I've been bothered about the problem of wealth distribution in this country as I'm sure others may have been too. However, we were passive. Not only that, but the notion of speaking openly about it and declaring it wrong and un-American seemed..."radical." We're a capitalist society after all, aren't we? Isn't that supposed to be a good thing? On the rare occasions when I've heard wealth distribution talked about, words such as communism or socialism swiftly entered the conversation. People were quick to assert that what they worked for belonged to them; why should they have to share it with others?

But now, suddenly something has changed. Something has shifted to enable us to think beyond the "me" syndrome and think in terms of "us" as in all of us in the working class. If Michael Moore had shown up in Wisconsin just a couple months earlier, I'm sure he wouldn't have received such a booming welcome. Indeed, as I watched his speech a couple weeks ago in front of the crowd of nearly 70,000 applauding Wisconsinites, I almost couldn't believe that that many people agreed. It made me realize how much we've changed in such a short time.

It's not a new thing--what the corporate elite and their politicians are doing. It's been going on for decades or more, so why now have we in the working class suddenly risen up together to say no to them? It seems it took somebody like Scott Walker, someone brazen and unafraid, someone who doesn't even care much to hide behind the facade of "let's pretend to be nice to the people," for us to realize just how bad it's going to get for the working class if we don't stand up. That's the one good achievement that Scott Walker can be credited with.

Solnit writes in her article:
"It is remarkable how, in other countries, people will one day simply stop believing in the regime that had, until then, ruled them, as African-Americans did in the South here 50 years ago. Stopping believing means no longer regarding those who rule you as legitimate, and so no longer fearing them. Or respecting them." 
That's the point where we're at in Wisconsin and in America at large. Many of us no longer trust in and respect some of the people who govern us. We no longer believe they hold our interests at heart. Solnit continues on:
"Revolution is also the action of people pushed to the brink. Rather than fall over, they push back. When he decided to push public employees hard and strip them of their collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took a gamble. In response, union members, public employees, and then the public of Wisconsin began to gather on February 11th. By February 15th, they had taken over the state’s capitol building as the revolution in Egypt was still at full boil. They are still gathering. Last weekend, the biggest demonstration in Madison’s history was held, led by a “tractorcade” of farmers. The Wisconsin firefighters have revolted too. And the librarians. And the broad response has given encouragement to citizens in other states fighting similar cutbacks on essential services and rights.
Republicans like to charge the rest of us with “class war” when we talk about economic injustice, and that’s supposed to be a smear one should try to wriggle out of. But what’s going on in Wisconsin is a class war, in which billionaire-backed Walker is serving the interests of corporations and the super-rich, and this time no one seems afraid of the epithet. Jokes and newspaper political cartoons, as well as essays and talks, remark on the reality of our anti-trickle-down economy, where wealth is being pumped uphill to the palaces at a frantic rate, and on the reality that we’re not poor or broke, just crazy in how we distribute our resources.
What’s scary about the situation is that it is a test case for whether the party best serving big corporations can strip the rest of us of our rights and return us to a state of poverty and powerlessness. If the people who gathered in Madison don’t win, the war will continue and we’ll all lose.
Oppression often works—for a while. And then it backfires. Sometimes immediately, sometimes after several decades. Walker has been nicknamed the Mubarak of the Midwest. Much of the insurrection and the rage in the Middle East isn’t just about tyranny; it’s about economic injustice, about young people who can’t find work, can’t afford to get married or leave their parents’ homes, can’t start their lives. This is increasingly the story for young Americans as well, and here it’s clearly a response to the misallocation of resources, not absolute scarcity. It could just be tragic, or it could get interesting when the young realize they are being shafted, and that life could be different. Even that it could change, quite suddenly, and for the better."
What's happening in Wisconsin is not an immediate battle with immediate results. This passage of Solnit's reminds us of what has yet to come:
"It’s all very well to organize on Facebook and update on Twitter, but these are only preludes. You also need to rise up, to pour out into the streets. You need to be together in body, for only then are you truly the public with the full power that a public can possess."
There needs to be more demonstrations, more visible outcries. Uprisings not just in Wisconsin, but all over America. We can no longer be passive about wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few. We in the working class didn't cause the economic collapse. We suffer the most from it, and yet we're being told to make more sacrifices while the corporate elite receive bailouts and tax breaks. This is our boiling point. Time to make changes.


K said...

My 11-year-old told me today that she would never, ever, in her life miss voting in an election.

Many of us are bringing our kids to all the protests and meetings. In my moments of frustration/despair (Like tonight...after they passed the BRB), I have hope for the future with all of our kids.

And as for present-day WI, this ain't over yet....

joel said...

The French revolted because of the wealth disparity in their country. Social upheaval is not communism as the Republicans would like us to believe. It is about giving everyone an equal opportunity for a better life. The USA has turned into an oligarchy no thanks to politicians who instead of protecting the rights of workers kiss up to big business.